Memories of Lee Weng Kee

I just got back from a memorial for Lee Weng Kee, actor and friend, who passed on, 10th Feb this year, from pneumonia.

I received an sms on the day telling me that Weng Kee had passed away that afternoon. And it didn’t strike me till much later, that I had had a dream 2 nights before about a man, who was involved in the local theatre scene, passing on. I even had a journal entry to prove it. Weird.

Weng Kee and I worked together probably twice in the 7 years that I knew him, which also happens to be the rough amount of time I’ve been doing what I do. He was, strangely enough, one of the first few people that I met in the industry; a straight talking, older dude. Which made it easy for us to get along.

Although we hardly worked together, over the years, we stole conversations through random meetings at events when we shared cab or car rides home afterward. Those 20 minute conversations covered the important and completely mundane things happening in our lives, where we thought the industry was going, and sometimes his not so great health. And I appreciated his candour and matter-of-fact view of existence. Bordering on cynicism, but not quite, because in our conversations about the industry, he would complain about the way things were and how we should try and improve, and you don’t do that unless you still have hope.

My fondest memory of Weng Kee happened in 2005, sitting on top of Ann Siang Hill, in front of what used to be RAW, a gentlemens’ sauna, at 8.30 in the morning. We were working on the tv series “jiu chen gao” (9 layered cake). The crew were filming another scene in the pathway below us, and so the 2 of us were left there to wait. And wait. And wait.

Over the next 2 and something hours, as we chatted, he gave me the lowdown on gay culture and history in Singapore from his perspective, patiently answering my questions and sharing insights with me. The entire time, men of all ages, shapes and types would occasionally stroll in or out of RAW. And I remember thinking to myself, “at 8.30 in the morning? What the…???”

We were so engrossed in our conversation, and the tv crew so engrossed in their filming that both forgot about each other. They left, in the bus, without us, and when they realised they’d left us behind, called our mobiles in a panic. Now, being the “responsible” actors that we both were, our phones were in our bags, on silent, so we didn’t hear their calls. We only realised they’d abandoned us when the production assistant came running back up the hill, heart in mouth, to look for us. Boy, did we have a good chuckle over that one. Not the production team. Just Weng Kee and me.

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6 comments on “Memories of Lee Weng Kee

  1. Sham says:

    this is also a coincidence. i don’t know why or what got into me that i went to search for Weng Kee’s profile on Google but somehow or rather i came to your entry which was posted a few minutes ago. too coincidental.

    doesn’t make sense but i feel you on this one.

  2. Teri-Anne Lee says:

    Thank you for your entry. I worked with Weng Kee when I played Rowena in Ah Kong’s. I loved how he was so down to earth and unassuming. In an industry where so many were hungry to show off and to be seen (and heard), we found a friendship between the gaps! He played my father in the production and there were moments that we shared as well that I will always treasure.

    I always called him “dad”. It was a joke between us from the show-I lost mine when I was one, and well, we didn’t have great hopes of him becoming one! 🙂

    I have been living in Sweden now for the past 6 years and hearing the news of his passing has really knocked the wind out of me. I hate that I never said goodbye. That I couldn’t be there for his memorial. Yet I know, he would have probably just shrugged and say NEVERMIND.

    I carry him in my heart. I am so grateful that I had the chance to know him. Going back to Singapore for visits and knowing that friends like him have passed, fill me with such heaviness…

    My love and my thoughts to you dad! Till we meet again.

  3. timothynga says:

    Thanks Sham and Teri-Anne for sharing.

    Another friend just messaged me on facebook to tell me that Weng Kee was a hairstylist too. She used to go to his place to get her hair cut yonks ago when he was just starting out in acting.

  4. Stan says:

    hey tim, nice one.
    These are just memories that we can keep dear to our hearts.
    It still didn’t really hit me that Weng Kee is gone though. He is still living in me very much. Thanks Tim, for sharing such a nice memory of him.
    hugs

  5. Shea says:

    I read with regret. A loss that has brought the curtain down too soon. Lee Weng Kee, RIP.

  6. Neo Swee Lin says:

    thanks for posting this Tim, read it sometime ago but never thought to post a comment. Want to say hi to Teri-Anne too, we were in the same production of Ah Kong’s, I played Lai Mun, the wife of Ah Kong. It seems so long ago. Weng Kee was also in the first production of Ah Kong’s – where he played Cedric, the long-time loyal employee of Ah Kong. I shall never forget how much fun we had in that production, including one show when we all tried to corpse each other by using a simple phrase in Hokkien “Bo lah bo, wa bo lah” meaning “No I didn’t, not me..” he got me within minutes after the show started.

    The first time I took notice of Weng Kee was when he sang the Barry Manilow song, EVEN NOW on Talentime on TV. He wasn’t very good, but he just kept trying. Later he began to appear in Theatreworks plays. I really didn’t think a lot of his acting back then, I was such a convent girl snob, just couldn’t get around the bad diction. Eventually we worked together in Army Daze, I played his sister, Ah Huay, yes he was the original Ah Beng. That was when I took a lesson or two on diction from him. We became good friends. He brought something to my world that was uniquely his. It makes me sad that I didn’t spend more time with him before his time was up. And I still cannot believe that he is gone. But I think Teri-Anne is right, he probably would’ve shrugged & said NEVER MIND.

    Bye Weng Kee, till we meet again. God keep you safe & happy.

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